The portfolio committee on justice and correctional services has adopted the report on the Land Courts Bill, following public hearings. The purpose of the Bill is to provide for the establishment of a land court and a land court of appeal and make provision for their administration and judicial functions.
Chair Bulelani Magwanishe said the committee held public hearings on the Bill this year and received written presentations from several stakeholders, who had not indicated the need to further elaborate during oral submissions.
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The Bill also aims to make provision for budgetary matters, provide for the exclusive jurisdiction of the land court and land court of appeal for certain matters, and provides for mediation and arbitration procedures and amends certain laws relating to the adjudication of land matters by other courts.
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Magwanishe said the Restitution of Land Rights Act of 1994 establishes a land claims court with exclusive jurisdiction in respect of restitution claims arising from the Act. It also has exclusive jurisdiction to deal with matters arising from the application of the Land Reform (Labour Tenants) Act and it shares jurisdiction with the magistrate’s courts in matters arising from the application of the Extension of Security of Tenure Act.
However, Magwanishe noted that the Restitution Act never envisaged a permanent court with permanent judges.
“Instead, the land claims court was established as a dedicated court with a limited lifespan to deal with claims for restitution of land. However, the restitution process became protracted and still not completed.
“A lack of permanency of judges presiding over matters before the court and the absence of a permanent seat has contributed to the slow processing of and backlogs in land restitution claims to the dissatisfaction of land claimants.”
Magwanishe added that the Bill proposes to establish a specialist land court, with its judgment appealable to the full bench of that court to deal with all land-related matters as regulated by legislation, in order to facilitate the speedy disposal of cases and contribute towards the development of appropriate jurisprudence in relation to land matters.
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“Notably, the land court is established as a court of law and equity in respect of the Restitution Act and has the status of a high court that has the authority, inherent powers and standing in relation to matters under its jurisdiction. The Bill also proposes a cheaper and speedier alternative dispute resolution mechanism in the form of mediation,” he said.
The Bill will now be sent to the National Assembly for adoption and then referred to the National Council of Provinces.